- Apr 30, 2017
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Certosa is the Italian name for a house of the cloistered monastic order of Carthusians founded by St. Bruno in 1044 at Grande Chartreuse. Though the Carthusians in their early centuries were known for their seclusion and asceticism and the plainness of their architecture, the Certosa is renowned for the exuberance of its architecture, in both the Gothic and Renaissance styles, and for its collection of artworks which are particularly representative of the region. Gian Galeazzo Visconti, hereditary lord and first Duke of Milan, commissioned the building of the Certosa to the architect Marco Solari, inaugurating the works and laying the foundation stone on August 27, 1396, as recorded by a bas-relief on the facade. The location was strategically chosen midway between Milan and Pavia, the second city of the Duchy, where the Duke held his court.
The interior of the church.
The church, the last edifice of the complex to be built, was to be the family mausoleum of the Visconti. It was designed as a grand structure with a nave and two aisles, a type unusual for the Carthusian Order. The nave, in the Gothic style, was completed in 1465.
However, since the foundation, the Renaissance had spread in Italy, and the rest of the edifice was built according to the new style, redesigned by Giovanni Solari continued by his son Guiniforte Solari and including some new cloisters. Solari was followed as director of the works by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, (1481-1499). The church was consecrated on May 3, 1497. The lower part of the façade was not completed until 1507.
The construction contract obliged the monks to use part of the revenue of the lands held in benefice to the monastery to continue to improve the edifice. Consequently, the Certosa includes a huge collection of artworks of all centuries from the 15th to the 18th.
In 1782, the Carthusians were expelled by the Emperor Joseph II of Austria, and were succeeded at the Certosa by the Cistercians in 1784 and then by the Carmelites in 1789. In 1810 the monastery was closed until the Carthusians reacquired it in 1843. In 1866 it was declared a National Monument and sequestrated by the Italian State, although some Benedictines resided there until 1880. The monks currently living in the monastery are Cistercians admitted to it in the 1960s.
In August 1946 the illegally exhumed body of Benito Mussolini was discovered in the complex. Two Franciscan friars were charged with assisting in the concealment of the body.